Battle On Lake Erie
Washington City, Sept. 23rd.
Copy of a letter from Commodore Perry to the Sect. of the Navy.
U.S. Schooner Ariel, Put-in-Bay,
13th September, 1813.
Sir - In my last I informed you that we had captured the enemy's fleet on this lake. I have now the honor to give you the most important particulars of the action. On the morning of the 10th inst., at sun-rise they were discovered from put in bay, where I lay at anchor with the squadron under my command. We got under way, the wind light at S.W. and stood for them. At 10 A.M. the wind hauled to S.E. and bro't us to windward: formed the line and bore up. At 15 minutes before twelve the enemy commenced firing; at 5 minutes before twelve the action commenced on our part. Finding their fire very destructive, owing to their long guns, and its being mostly directed at the Lawrence, I made sail and directed the other vessels to follow for the purpose of closing with the enemy. Every brace and bowline being soon shot away, she became unmanageable, notwithstanding the great exertions of the sailing master, in this situation she sustained the action upwards of 2 hours within canister distance until every gun was rendered useless, and the greater part of the crew either killed or wounded. Finding she could no longer annoy the enemy, I left her in charge of Lieut. Yarnal, who I was convinced from the bravery already displayed by him, would do what would comport with the honor of the flag.
At half past two the wind springing up, capt. Elliot was enabled to bring his vessel, the Niagara gallantly into close action; I immediately went on board of her when he anticipated my wish, by volunteering to bring the schooners which had been kept astern by the lightness of the wind, into close action. It was with unspeakable pain that I saw, soon after I had got on board the Niagara, the flag of the Lawrence come down, altho' I was perfectly sensible that she had been defended to the last, and that to have continued to make a shew of resistance would have been a wanton sacrifice of the remains of her brave crew. But the enemy was not able to take possession of her and circumstances soon permitted her flag again to be hoisted. At 45 minutes past two the signal was made for close action.
The Niagara being very little injured I determined to pass through the enemy's line, bore up and passed ahead of their two ships and brig giving a raking fire to them from the starboard guns, and to a large schooner and a sloop, from the larboard side, at half pistol shot distance - The smaller vessels at this time having got within grape and canister distance, under the direction of Capt. Elliot, and keeping up well directed fire, the two ships, a brig and a schooner surrendered, a schooner and a sloop making a vain attempt to escape. Those officers and men who were immediately under my observation evinced the greatest gallantry, and I have no doubt that all others conducted themselves as became American officers and seamen. Lt. Yarnal first of the St. Lawrence although several times wounded, refused to quit the deck. -Midshipman Forrest doing duty as lieutenant, and sailing master Taylor were of great assistance to me. I have great pain in stating to you the death of Lieut. Brook of the marines, and midshipman Lamb, both of the Lawrence, and Midshipman John Clarke of the Scorpion; they were valuable and promising officers. Mr. Hambleton, Purser, who volunteered his services on deck, was severely wounded in the action. - Midshipmen Claxton and Swartout of the Lawrence were severely wounded. On board of the Niagara Lieutenants Smith and Edwards & Midshipman Webster behaved in a very handsome manner. Capt. Brevcort of the army, who acted as a volunteer in the capacity of a marine officer on board that vessel, is an excellent and brave officer, and with his musketry did great execution. Lt. Turner commanding the Caledonia, brought that vessel into action in the most able manner, & is an officer that in all situations may be relied upon. The Ariel, Lieut. Parker, and Scorpion sailing master Champlain, were enabled to get early into action, and were of great service. Of Capt. Elliot, already so well known it would be almost superfluous to speak. He has given me the most able and essential service.
I have the honor to inclose you a return of the killed and wounded, together with a statement of the relative force of the squadrons. The Capt. and first Lt. of the Queen Charlotte, and first Lieut. of the Detroit, were killed. Capt. Barclay, senior officer, and the commander of the Lady Prevost, severely wounded. The commander of the Hunter and Chippeway, slightly wounded. Their loss in killed and wounded I have not been able to ascertain it must however, have been very great. I have the honor to be. sir. very respectfully your obedient servant. O.H. PERRY
The Honorable William Jones, Secretary of the Navy.
Extract of a Letter From Commodore Perry
U.S. schooner Ariel, Put in Bay,
Sept. 18th, 1813
Sir - I have caused the prisoners taken on the 10th inst. to be landed at Sandusky, and have requested General Harrison to have them marched to Chilicothe, and there to wait until your pleasure be known respecting them.
The Lawrence has been so entirely cut up, it is absolutely necessary, she should go into a safe Harbor. I have therefore directed Lieut. Yarnal to proceed to Erie in her, with the wounded of the fleet, and dismantle and get her over the bar as soon as possible.
The two ships in a heavy sea this day at anchor, lost their masts, being much injured in the action. I shall haul them in the inner bay at this place, and moor them for the present.
The Detroit is a remarkable fine ship, sails well, and is very strongly built. The Queen Charlotte is a much superior vessel to what has been represented. The Lady Prevost is a large fine schooner.
The exact number of the enemy's force has not been ascertained but I have good reason to believe, that it exceeded ours by nearly one hundred men.
Number of killed and Wounded on board the squadron under my command -Lawrence, 22 killed, 61 wounded - Niagara, 2 killed, 25 wounded - Caledonia, 9 wounded - Somers, 2 wounded - Ariel, 1 killed, 3 wounded - Trippe, 2 wounded -Scorpion, 2 killed - Total 27 killed and 96 wounded - Whole No. 123.
p.4 Seven Boats, containing private property, on their way from Montreal to this place, were taken by the enemy some time last week, about 12 miles below Prescott. - The principal sufferers in this place, are Mr. Bartlett, Mr. Merrills, and Mr. Badgley.
By all accounts the enemy appears to have assembled in considerable force at Gravelly Point, etc. but from motives best known to themselves, the contemplated attack on this port has been delayed - perhaps till the memorable tenth day of November shall again return.